Chicken Cacciatore

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I’m back! It feels so good to be back in the game. It has been quite a summer, and I am still in recovery mode. It’s been two long months since I have blogged, and I feel like the time has just flown by. My parents visited for 6 weeks this summer, and I’m still trying to get over them being gone. If I could move Kenya next door, I totally would! I don’t get to see them as often as I would like, and it makes me want to savor every second they are here, knowing our time is limited.

I’m excited that this is my return to blogging recipe. Chicken cacciatore is one of those dishes that sounds way more fancy than it really is. Cacciatore is Italian for “hunter” and a meal cooked “alla cacciatore” means it’s cooked hunter style. It usually involves braising chicken or rabbit, and then adding tomatoes, onions, garlic, herbs, often bell peppers, and sometimes wine. I learned how to make it about 10 years ago, and for a long time I was like a one trick pony.  It was the meal I prepared whenever we had company. I guess I made it so much that it got old for me, and as soon as I found other recipes, I shelved it. My hubby reminded me the other day that I hadn’t made it in ages, so I decided to revisit my old faithful recipe. I’ll tell you what… it was like meeting up with an old friend you haven’t seen in a while 🙂 It’s comfort food at it’s best. I lightened it up a little to fit  our new lifestyle where we’re more watchful of what we eat, but it did not take away from the flavor a bit! It’s loaded with veggies and flavorful sauce, and you will be so glad to serve this to your gang. My version incorporates mushrooms, which does darken the sauce color a tad, but I love the depth it adds to the sauce.

You can totally play with this recipe to suit your taste. I used skinless chicken thighs to make  the recipe lighter, but you can leave the skin on if you would like. You can also use a whole cut up chicken instead of just using thighs, Do leave the bone in the chicken though, and DO brown your meat (dusted with some flour). It makes all the difference in the flavor of the sauce. You can pick and choose your combo of veggies too. I went more traditional with the onion, mushroom, peppers and garlic. I skipped the wine and used chicken broth instead. We like things a little spicy at my house, so I added crushed red pepper. Feel free to adjust the amount, or omit all together to suite your taste. The same goes for the capers. They are totally optional. I had some in my fridge, and I love the briny, salty flavor that they add to slow cooked dishes. If you don’t have any, don’t sweat it. I served the cacciatore with whole wheat pasta, but any pasta would work just fine, or some egg noddles. Now that I think about it, rice or mashed potatoes would work here too. It would take away from the whole Italian theme, but I promise not to tell anyone if you choose to go that route 🙂

Enjoy!

Ingredients:
8 skinless chicken thighs
2 teaspoons salt, divided
2 teaspoons black pepper, divided
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 Tablespoons capers (optional, but yummy)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
Directions:
1. Sprinkle the chicken pieces with a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of black pepper. Dredge the chicken in flour to coat lightly.
2. In a heavy bottomed pot (I used a cast-iron pot), heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the chicken pieces and brown for about 5 minutes per side. Do this in batches to avoid crowding the pan, which keeps the chicken from browning up. Transfer the chicken to a plate, and set aside.

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3. Add the onions, mushrooms and green pepper to the pot, and saute until the veggies start to soften up (about 5 minutes). Add garlic and saute for another minute. Season with the remaining teaspoon of salt and black pepper.
4. Add the chicken broth, and let the liquid simmer and reduce (about 3-4 minutes). Add the tomatoes, oregano, capers and crushed red pepper. (If you are not using capers, check for seasoning. You may need to add more salt. Capers are salty, so I didn’ t need to add more). Bring the sauce to a simmer, cover with a lid and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 35-40 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.

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Serve over pasta, and sprinkle with basil.
Devotion for the day:
The last few days have been a roller coaster of emotions watching the news after this past weekend’s terrorist attack at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya. My heart grieves for the families and friends who have lost their loved ones. My heart is sad for the city and country that I love. I’m angry at the terrorists who walked into that building and rocked our confidence and security. Through all the tragedy and grief, I’m reminded that I have to dig deep and find hope. Not a false sense of hope, but a deep hope in the ONE who never changes. Even when my world is rocked to the core, God is my rock, and my refuge.
The last night before my Mom left for Kenya a few weeks ago, she shared Psalms 62 with me. It has been the chapter that has returned to my mind multiple times over the last few days, and it is my prayer as the healing begins, and as Kenyans begin to try to make sense of the tragedy, and rebuild. Let us hope in God and God alone. He is our refuge and our strength.
Psalms 62: 5-8
Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;
my hope comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.

Sausage, spinach and white bean soup

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I love soup. I just wanted to put it out there. As ridiculous as it is to be wanting soup in the summer, there is something about a nice filling bowl of soup that makes me want to have it all year round. The struggle for me is usually to find a filling soup that is also not laden in enough calories to have me running on the treadmill for a week straight. My neighbor and I are always trading recipes, and he happened to recommend to me a white bean and spinach soup that he found on pinterest. I tried it, and we loved it, but my hubby who is not a huge fan of soup commented that he might have liked it a little more if it had some meat in it. This is a spin off from the recipe I tried, and we all enjoyed it greatly. I used sweet Italian sausage since it is what I had on hand this time, but I am curious to try a spicy turkey sausage to make it even healthier next time. All in all, it made for a really good dinner. I wanted a good balance on the ingredients, so I decided to go with  3 links of sausage. I wanted just enough to add some meaty texture, but not too much to take over the lovely bean and spinach flavor. The recipe calls for 7 cups of fresh spinach added in towards the end of the cook time. No… it’s not a typo. Trust me. I was starting to doubt myself as I was adding it in, but it wilts down to almost nothing! I would almost consider increasing the amount, on days I’m wanting more of a veggie soup.

I can’t say enough good things about this soup. It was pretty easy to throw together, and would make a great week night meal. It would be just as good as a starter but is fulling enough to hold it’s own as a main meal. Just add a salad or a buttered crusty piece of bread for a stress free dinner. It also reheats very well, so make a double batch and you can have lunches for the week covered as well. I might do this next time and freeze individual portions for quick and yummy lunches.

Enjoy!

Ingredients:

3 link sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 onion, diced
1 tablespoon sun-dried tomatoes(optional)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 15-ounce cans cannellini or great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-ounce can tomato puree
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning(or just dried basil)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 cups chicken broth
7 cups fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste.
Heat a stock pot over medium high heat. Crumble the sausage and brown for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add in the onion, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes until the onions start to soften up.
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Add the beans, tomato puree, Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper and broth to the pot. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer over medium heat for 35-40 minutes. (You want the beans to soften up a little more, and the flavors to marry together).
Add the chopped spinach (I had small leaves and skipped the chopping part) and the Parmesan. cook uncovered for a minute or two until the spinach is wilted. Season with salt and pepper if needed. (I do this at the very end to avoid over-salting since depending on the broth and Parmesan used, the saltiness may vary).
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Devotion For The Day:
I was reading from Joshua 10, and I’m amazed at how God has a way of bringing to me exactly what I need at just the right moment. I have had a roller coaster week, and I really needed to be reminded that God is more than capable of handling even the situations that seem impossible to man. In Joshua 10, the Israelites had already entered their promised land of Canaan, and people in the neighboring regions were fearful of the Israelites after they heard of the defeat of the Canaanites. The Gibeonites who occupied the land close to the Israelites had made a treaty with Israel to ensure their survival, and this made the other nearby kings angry and they decided to attack Gibeon. When the Gibeonites learned of this, they approached the Israelites to help save them. So, Joshua and his entire army went to battle. I verse 8, the Lord said to Joshua, “do not be afraid of them, for I have given them into your hand. Not one of them will be able to withstand you”. 
The Israelites surprised the opposing armies and defeated them in Gibeon, and the armies were thrown into great confusion. As they tried to flee, the Israelites pursued them and killed some by the sword, and as they fled, the Lord hurled large hailstones that killed even more of the army. During the battle, Joshua prayed a prayer to God asking him to make the sun stand still over Gibeon, and the moon over the Valley of Aijalon until the battle was completed. This is the part of the story that I love the most. Verse 14 says, the sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down for a full day. There has never been a day like it before or since. a day that the Lord listened to a man. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel!
I was so encouraged when I read of this encounter. It was a reminder to me that my Daddy is more than able to take care of me, and fight for me. Nothing is impossible.

Strawberry Cake

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There comes a time when you break down and listen to that voice in your head that is screaming for cake. That day, my friends was this past Monday. This weekend I made a trip to the farmer’s market and made off like a bandit on one of my finds. 8 containers of strawberries for $6. I almost ran to my car after I paid for the berries before Mr.Seller dude changed his mind. I flash froze more than half of them for smoothies and shakes, but the other berries sat in the fridge for a day or two taunting me every time I cracked the door. I kept dreaming of a cake with big chunks of fruit inside. It simply had to be done!

After perusing through my share of strawberry cakes that claimed to be from scratch but had gelatin (gasp!!) I found the winning one on one of my favorite blogs, smitten kitchen. It is a simple unassuming batter topped with a ton of berries, and sprinkled with sugar to help the strawberries turn into jam. It is simply perfect! The recipe called for a cup of sugar in the batter,  but I cut it down to 3/4 cup so the sweetness of the strawberries would be the star. I’m so glad it did. It was just the right amount of sweet for me.

I will give a firm warning though…. do not bake this cake, pull it out of the oven with just enough time to set it on the counter and snap one picture and assume it is safe to take more pictures when you return home in a couple of hours. Especially not if you have two daughters and a husband prowling around. I present exhibit A.

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This is what I found. The culprits were all in bed, with full tummies, I presume. The cake lasted less than 24 hours at my house, and we shall miss it dearly 🙂

Adapted very slightly from Smitten Kitchen.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups  all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound (450 grams) strawberries, hulled and halved

-Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter a 10-inch pie pan or 9-inch deep-dish pie pan ( I used a 9-inch spring foam pan). Do not use a 9-inch regular pie dish because it will overflow.
-Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl. In a larger bowl, beat butter and 3/4 cup sugar until pale and fluffy with an electric mixer, about 3 minutes. Mix in egg, milk and vanilla until just combined. Add dry mixture gradually, mixing until just smooth.
-Pour into prepared pie plate. Arrange strawberries, cut side down, on top of batter, as closely as possible in a single layer. Sprinkle-remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over berries.

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-Bake cake for 10 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 325°F and bake cake until golden brown and a tester comes out free of wet batter, about 50 minutes to 60 minutes. (Gooey strawberries on the tester are a given.) Let cool in pan on a rack. Cut into wedges. Serve with lightly whipped cream. (I totally forgot to turn the temperature down, and baked mine at 350 Degrees F for 48 minutes).
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Cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days, loosely covered, but clearly it didn’t survive that long at my house!
Devotion For The Day:
Two years ago, my family started planting potted plants. It is a fun project for my older daughter because she actually gets to see the plants change over time, and there’s the added bonus that when she’s off school for the summer, she gets paid to water the plants. We do flowers all year round in some pots, and herbs in some for the spring and summer. This year we were late in starting her off with her job, and we ended up with VERY dried out rose bushes. It was remarkable how quickly they went from blooming in the spring, to bone dry a few weeks later. I felt terrible, because I was sure they were gone for good. I was actually getting ready to pull them out and toss them, but my husband pruned them off and insisted that if we water them consistently for a few weeks, they will survive. I will be honest and say that I was extremely skeptical, but figured we might as well try.
Well, they are back! A week or so ago, green new leaves started breaking through, and we were so excited about it. Walking past them the other day, I had this thought that has stayed with me. I thought of all the times that I have been in such a dire situation that I thought all was lost, or when I have watched someone and thought that there is no way that they can get out of the jam that they are in. Except with God, nothing is impossible. He can breath life into a situation that looks totally dead, and bring life to it. I have seen too many lives changed to doubt any more.
Two verses come to mind. John 6:35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. The second is Matthew 19:26, Jesus looked at them and said, “with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible”.
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Cream Cheese and Cinnamon Bars

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A few years ago, I attended a ladies luncheon and these bars were served. First thing I thought when I took a bite was… CHEESECAKE! I quickly hounded the hostess for the recipe, and have made it countless times since. I love cheesecake, but do not make it often since it’s definitely not the quickest dessert to whip up. These bars are the perfect solution to that. Whereas cheesecake has all these components to work up, plus the added disadvantage of having to chill for hours, these whip up quick, and can be served warm out of the oven, or chilled. No joke… 10 minutes of prep work later, the smell of warm cinnamon will be wafting through your kitchen and giving you the warm and fuzzies. It is one of my go to desserts when I have to take a dish to a pot luck. I took this to a dinner with friends once and one of the husbands quickly put in a request to have this instead of cake for his birthday. I was thinking “uuummmhh awesome!  No cake to frost… sign me up for that”. A few weeks later, he was a very happy camper on his birthday 🙂

The crust on the bars is crescent roll dough, rolled out on the bottom and the top, with the cream cheese layer in between. Be sure to let your cream cheese soften at room temperature to make it easier to cream with the sugar. I also let my egg sit our with the cream cheese. Cold eggs are harder to separate the egg white from the yolk.  There are a ton of different versions of these bars, but my favorite is still this one. I have added a can of apple pie filling before, and it was delicious. I have also seen where a layer of fruit preserve/jelly is layered over the cream cheese filling, then topped with the crescent dough. I keep coming back to the original though. I hope you will enjoy it as much as my family and I do. The pictures I took are of the chilled version, which makes it easier to cut into bars. It is delicious warm, but does not cut well, so has to be served in the baking pan. Not as pretty, but still yummy. One last note… I have tried using store brand crescent roll dough from different sources but always seem to be disappointed. This is one of those times I recommend sticking to a brand if at all possible. Pillsbury rolls produce a much better crust.

Ingredients:

2 (8 ct) pkg crescent rolls (tube)
2 (8)pkg cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) melted butter
1/2 cup sugar mixed with 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
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1. Pre-heat oven to 350 Degrees F. Place 1 can of unrolled crescent rolls in a 9 by 13 inch dish (no need to grease the dish).
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2. Beat cream cheese, sugar and egg yolk until smooth. Beat in lemon zest, juice and vanilla.
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3. Spread mixture over the crescent rolls. Unroll the second can of crescent rolls over the mixture.
4. Pour (or brush with a pastry brush) the melted butter on top and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture and bake for 25-30 minutes.
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You can serve it warm out of the oven, or cool on a rack for a few minutes, then chill in fridge for a couple of hours.
Enjoy!
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Devotion For the Day:
If I could sum up the last few months, I would say that they have been leading me to the point of learning how to TOTALLY surrender my cares to God and know that He truly is able and willing to take care of me. Many are the times in the past that I have run to God with an issue, yet on the back end I was trying to solve the issue on my own. This has been one of these weeks when I’m really fighting the inclination to grab my “stuff” back and handle it. Today’s reading was so appropriate for my situation. Phillipians 4:4-8 says “rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God: and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, breathren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things”. 
If I am truly honest with myself, there is constantly something that I can fret and worry about. The reality is that we live in an imperfect, fallen world. However, it does me no good whatsoever to worry. Instead I am retraining myself to lay my cares at Jesus feet and walk away, trusting that He is more than capable of handling anything that comes my way. I choose to meditate on the things that will lead me to peace, true joy and freedom. It is a daily choice to surrender.
 

Cream cheese frosting …..and a turtle cake!

A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of making this pull apart turtle cake for a sweet friend of our family who was turning 3. He got to take the cupcakes to school and share with his friends, and I got to play around with frosting.  It was a win- win situation for all involved:-) The frosting of choice when it comes to any cake at my house is almost always cream cheese frosting. To say we like it is an understatement. My husband for years had always said how much he hated frosting, until I baked him pumpkin spice cupcakes with cinnamon cream cheese frosting, and now he is the first one to ask where the mixing bowl is when I’m done frosting. I think what we like most about it is that it’s not achingly sweet like some frosting can be.

I made two batches of the frosting. One stayed as vanilla flavored (which I colored lime green) and the other got turned into chocolate frosting. As I mentioned above, I have also in the past added cinnamon, and it is insanely delicious on carrot cake, pumpkin cake or banana cake. Just add 2 teaspoons of cinnamon to the vanilla recipe, and you are in frosting heaven. It makes for a good base recipe that you can change up with different extract flavors. Make sure to use cream cheese and butter that has been sitting out of the fridge for a little while and has softened. It makes it much easier to cream together.

I took pictures to show the steps for making the pull apart cupcake cake. I’m totally fascinated by these, and they are perfect for so many reasons. They are easier to frost, easy to serve, and they look like you put waaaay more effort than they really require. I have made a pull-apart bridal shower cupcake cake before, and I’m eager to find more ideas for future cakes. My kids birthdays are in the fall, and I’m already trying to think up ideas. I got the steps for the turtle off the Betty Crocker site. I used M& M candy for the eyes, mini choc chips for the nostrils, a red Twizzler for the mouth, and a green one for the tail. The cupcakes were vanilla.

For best results, keep the cake refrigerated until you need it. The frosting gets soft from sitting out.

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting:

1 (8 Ounce) Block Cream cheese, softened

1/2 stick (4 tbsp) butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 cups confectioner’s sugar

Food coloring (optional) I used gel that was lime green.

1. Using a hand held mixer or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the cream cheese and butter until it is well combined. Add in the vanilla.

2. Starting on low speed, add in a cup of confectioners sugar at a time. Increase the speed once the sugar has been somewhat incorporated, or else you will end up wearing half of it 🙂 I’ve been there! Mix until all the lumps are gone and the frosting is smooth.

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3. If adding food coloring, add a few drops at a time until you have the desired color.

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Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting.

Use the vanilla cream cheese frosting recipe above, but add 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder in with the confectioners sugar. If the frosting is a little stiffer than desired, add a spoonful of milk at a time until it is the right consistency. I added 2 tablespoons of milk to mine.

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Turtle Cake:

Here is the link for the step by step instructions from Betty Crocker.

You will need 12 cupcakes for one pull apart cake.

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Starting with 7 cupcakes, arrange them as shown above and frost them with the chocolate frosting.

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Frost 5 cupcakes green and attach them as shown to make the head, arms and feet. Next, outline the shell and fill in with crack like pattern.

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Add in the final decorative elements for the face. I used twizzlers for the mouth and tail, M&Ms for the eyes, and chocolate chips for the nostrils.

Devotion For The Day:
It truly amazes me how a certain scent or smell will stop you right in your tracks. The smell of freshly cut grass, the smell of the ocean, the hunger pang inducing aroma coming from the bakery across the street. We all have experienced it in one way or another. The smell of warm cinnamon is enough to lighten my mood. With that visual in mind, I was captivated by a verse I read recently. 2nd Corinthians 2:15 says: For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. I read this at least a week ago, but I cannot get that image out of my mind. It has made my prayer each morning that I would be a sweet fragrance in the way that I carry myself out, knowing that I have the opportunity to be the aroma of Christ that day.

Mango and Avocado Salsa

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The spring has arrived with a bang, and I am loving the warmer weather. I know that living in Alabama I should not be whining about the cold since Southern winters are pretty mild, but I can’t stand the cold. After a week of winter, I’m usually ready to call it a wrap. One of my favorite things about the spring is the bountiful fruits and vegetables available. I had long since given up on finding mangoes that taste anything like what I knew growing up eating in Kenya, but I have been pleasantly surprised to find really sweet mangoes at my local publix store. This recipe is one of the many ways we are enjoying our weekly mango stash. My kids love guacamole, and this is a welcome alternative to our usual recipe. I wasn’t sure how the mango was going to taste mixed with tomato, and I almost left the tomatoes out. I’m glad I didn’t. It was the perfect balance of flavors.I changed very little from the original recipe, except for reducing the oil, taking the seeds out of the tomatoes before dicing them, and using extra lime juice. If you like things really spicy, leave the seeds in the jalapeno. I was going for a milder salsa since this was a dinner side that the kids would be eating. I served the salsa with grilled chicken, and dinner was delicious, and done in less than 30 minutes.
Recipe adapted from Allrecipes. Serves 6 as snack, or 4 as a dinner side.
Ingredients:
1 mango – peeled, seeded and diced
1 avocado – peeled, pitted, and diced
4 medium tomatoes, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice ( I used juice from two limes)
1/4 cup chopped red onion
3 tablespoons olive oil (I just used 1 tbsp)
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In a medium bowl, combine the mango, avocado, tomatoes, jalapeno, cilantro, and garlic. Stir in the salt, lime juice, red onion, and olive oil. To blend the flavors, refrigerate for about 30 minutes before serving.
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Devotion For The Day:

Today we are getting some very welcome rain. We have been covered in pollen the last couple of weeks, and the yellow dust has been EVERYWHERE. Little yellow streams are running down the driveway currently, and we are really glad to see the actual color on our cars (the yellow was quite unbecoming). The only downside today is that there is the possibility of tornadoes as I live in Alabama (read.. tornado central). My two year old absolutely hates thunder, and the sound of rain makes her very anxious as she anticipates the thunder that might follow. I was just watching her a few minutes ago, and for the 20th time this hour she peeked out the window and said “I scare-red Mommy”. It just occurred to me though, that as much as she is scared, she is perfectly fine as long as she sees Mommy or Daddy. Somehow she knows that she will be OK. The trust that she has in us overshadows her fears.  Contrasting this with moments when she’s alone and the  thunder cracks, it’s a different story all together. She screams her little heart out until we come to the “rescue”.
As I pondered over the situation, it hit me that the same child’s faith she has in us is the same faith that God calls me to have with Him. As long as she knows we are with her, she knows she will be OK.  Psalms 34:4 sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears”. I think this verse sums up perfectly what I need to do when a scary situation comes my way. Seek the Lord, and trust Him. He shall deliver me from my fears.

Lemon and Herb “Riced” Cauliflower

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Our eating habits have really been shaken up this year, in a good way. One of the biggest changes has been a huge reduction in our carb intake. Before you roll your eyes and glaze over on me, I am not going on a no carb diet. This is not sustainable long term for me, so we have been looking at changes that we can make towards healthy living long term. One of the things we are challenging ourselves to do is plan our eating better. Carbs earlier in the day, and more veggies and protein at night. Now… this sounded like a really good plan, until it came time to cook. I now realize how heavily I depended on my carb for my meals. Pasta, rice, potatoes and company is where I usually start, then plan my meat and veggies around it. This has been a hard habit to try and break!
One cool concept I came across when I started researching low carb meals is using cauliflower as a substitute for rice. It took me a few weeks to work up the excitement to try this, since I am not a big cauliflower lover. It’s a vegetable that tastes kinda bland to me, quite honestly. What I am learning it that this could actually work to my advantage! It can take on pretty much whatever flavors I want it to, The whole idea here is to blend the cauliflower down to where it is about the size of a rice grain, then cook it in the same fashion you would have cooked your rice (you can use a box grater if you don’t have a blender).I tried it a couple weeks ago microwaved for 7-8 minutes (add a few drops of water) and then added lime juice and cilantro, since that’s one of my favorite ways to make my rice. It was…ok…. but I wasn’t too thrilled (even though my hubby liked it). I decided to give it another attempt and try it as fried rice! I LOVED IT! I mean totally loved it. Enough that if you would have offered me rice in place of it, I would have turned it down willingly. This is a huge win for me. I am one of those people who do not eat to stay alive, it means a lot to me to actually enjoy my food.
I hope you give this recipe a try. If you do, please chime in and let me know what you think. The flavors can be changed up to whatever you like in your rice. I think next try for me will be attempting to make it into a Chinese fried “rice”.

Makes 4 servings.
Ingredients:
1 head cauliflower
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons fresh parsley (if dried, use 1 tablespoon)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)

1. Break down your head of cauliflower into florets. In 2 batches, put in the processor or blender, and blend until it is the size of a rice grain.

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2. Heat oil in a skillet on medium-high heat. Add your onion and garlic and fry for a 1-2 minutes, stirring often to prevent burning.
3. Add in the cauliflower and cook for 7-8 minutes, until the cauliflower starts to soften up. Add the lemon zest and juice, parsley, salt and crushed pepper, cook for another minute.
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Serve anywhere you would rice. I had mine with some steak tips and sauce, and it was fantastic.
Enjoy.
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Devotion for the day:
Yesterday I was reading from Romans 4, and it totally rocked my day.

Romans 4:3: What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Romans 4:18-25: 18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”[d] 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22 This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” 23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

Here I was thinking… wow! Righteousness is attainable! I know this is probably not as much of a shock to some of you, but it was to me! I grew up in the church, and there were so many do-nots and a list a mile high of things that I was supposed to do as a christian. It was filled with legalism, so much so that in my mind, there is no way I could ever match  up to the standard. I always felt not christian enough. Then here comes the bible, telling me that it can be “credited to me as righteousness”. It’s hard for my mind to wrap my mind around, but I feel such a renewed hope. The beauty of it is that it is not based on how good I am, but the wonderful grace of God.